With Dark Phoenix hitting theaters next weekend we’re rolling through the previous X-Men films. Today we take a look at the second standalone X-Men film, The Wolverine.
With X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine in the rearview window, Fox began moving forward with new ideas for their X-Men franchise. After finding success in X-Men: First Class, a prequel to the original films, they decided to continue the solo adventures of Wolverine. This time things picked up after the events of The Last Stand. Here we see a Logan who has accepted what has come before to the best of his ability. He’s still tormented by the fact that he had to kill Jean Grey (Famke Jansen) in Last Stand, which has led him to a life of seclusion in the woods. He’s no longer a member of the X-Men; he’s a lone wolf trying to live out his life in peace, but Logan can never live a simple and peaceful life.
The plot of The Wolverine is both simple and convoluted. Logan wants to die, and an old friend offers to give him that chance by taking his powers and transferring them to himself before he dies. That’s the basic idea of the film. Past that it becomes a complicated narrative that at times is slightly difficult to follow, and it’s not clear who to root for outside of Logan. It’s ironic in that the storyline for Origins was so simple it was stupid, yet here we get a story that’s so complex it’s almost hard to follow. However, there is enough to make it work.
There are a few side characters that feel as though they don’t need to be there or that they could have been condensed into one to make everything flow better. Overall, the complicated plot doesn’t destroy the film, it just makes it less accessible. When we simply focus on Logan and his journey throughout, the film thrives. It also features some great action sequences including the infamous bullet train fight sequences, which work extremely well.
The best part of the film is without a doubt the character growth for Logan. He’s always been an interesting and fun character, but he’s been rather simple. He’s a rage-filled force to be reckoned with that has no memory of his past. This film asks who is he beyond that. How does he truly grapple with the things he’s done? How does he move forward knowing that the best thing he’s done for the world is kill a woman he loved? It’s an interesting character study that is never overshadowed and is played out perfectly.
The Wolverine isn’t a perfect film. There are plenty of things that could have been done better, but it works and it’s a step in the right direction. It’s also a sign that Fox was still willing to play with some elements of the first three X-Men films as they began to move forward. They weren’t afraid to look back into their past to help them move into the future, and that paid off big time.